"On Facebook, Sharing & Educating Children"

Friday, 4 May, 2018 - 2:39 pm

"On Facebook, Sharing & Educating Children"

Mordechai Zev Hecht ~

1 Billion users and counting - that's Facebook. The largest individual online platform ever. The norm that has become and is now Facebook is a force to be reckoned with one that speaks volumes about human psychology and social norms which are deeply embedded in our neurological hardwiring.

With all the talk in the news lately about Cambridge Analytica etc. and sharing data and the deep concerns for confidentiality and privacy of people's personal information one can only wonder if this is new or just a regurgitation and new-face if you like of an age old idea well known to humanity called - life itself.

In the world of action, a really neat technique with dealing with kids, I have found, is when a child doesn't want to share some of his toys with someone else, you tell the child in advance, "don't bring out, or don't take with you to your friend what you can't share". Sometimes children step and let go and share more than they originally felt at first, while others reserve that right and really don't bring it to the table, if their not ready to share.

Similarly in the world of speech, we all have secrets, we all have thoughts that we rather no one ever know, or as the age old saying goes: "better be quiet and let people think your smart, then to speak up and remove all doubts". It istha Talmud that has taught us 2,000 years ago, the value that silence is Golden - literally "A word for 1 selah ( a certain ancient coin denomination), silence for 2". Yet there are times where we really feel the need and urge to talk to someone. In fact the Torah teaches us as brought in the Talmud: "A worry in the heart of man shall spoken about with others". With this all being the case, we all know that we need to be careful what we do and what we say to others, especially in public, even to family and friends.

However, we also know and the Torah is very clear about social interaction, "love your fellow as yourself" etc. human beings need to have a healthy social life, friends and family with whom we talk and socialise without being judges and without being taken advantage of. So, the question how do we balance the two, 1) withholding and 2) sharing is a good one indeed.

Come with me my friends and get this. The Talmud in Tractate Yevomos p.63.2 brings from Ben Sira -Ecclesiasticus that one should:

"Prevent the "rabim" public from coming into your house, and do not bring "hakol"-everyone into your house, "rabim"- many should be those who inquire after your welfare, nevertheless reveal your secret to only 1 in 1000.'

One can easily ask the question, is this a prophecy of the Talmudic sages regarding Facebook and the like, that one could even possibly imagine having 1,000 acquaintances, only that you should only share your secrets with 1 ?!

In other words, could it be that the Torah is giving us a ratio 1/1000: for every time you think about posting something that's private think in the ratio amount of 1 in 1000. If so, I'll take it. It makes sense outside of Facebook. Before Facebook, ask yourself how much about your life did how many people actually know?! After answering that question, ask yourself: how can I create the model as a new norm for my online revelations. Sure we need a social life, sure online platforms can perhaps assist us in that direction, but at what cost? To what extent which is actually a healthy and productive, short term and long term?!

Perhaps we need ask ourselves furthermore, how much of what we post can actually be endangering us?! The Talmud is setting not only the Ratio but the idea in general, "don't bring the Rabim - the masses - those not close to you - into your home. People can always ask about your well fare, such as "how are you" and inquire into your well being even 1000 people. But does that have to be all in one day?! Maybe over a week or month or year or maybe even a life time. Or maybe the Talmud is using this term figuratively by saying: something simple like "hello", or "how are you is fine" - even 1,000 people may do so, but sharing all this "data" with "everyone", is it really necessary?! Says the sages of the Talmud the answer is a resounding: NO! not really such a great idea after all.

Rabbeinu Ibon Tabon in his magnum opus the Chovos Halevovos - Duties of the Heart expounds and enlightens us even further on this thread:

Man should have real friends, those who care about him and he cares about them, those who look out for your well being and genuinely care, 1000 acquaintances who do nothing to benefit a healthy relationship is a waste of time, as the verse so clearly states: "Oil and spices makes the heart joyful, and the sweet amongst friends is the advice and cure for the soul" (Mishlei 27)- (Chovas Halevovos, Shaar Chesbon Hanefesh: 56.2, p112)

We all know wine makes man happy, as wine is drunk and internalised, but oil and spices are external yet they too can benefit man in different ways and bring one happiness as well. Like friends, the right ones, like the right lotions and fragrances, can indeed truly benefit man.

Perhaps Facebook and platforms like it set children up for disaster. It can easily put a child's expectations high in the stratosphere, higher than it really should be :). Recent studies show people who were committed (addicted) to facebook and left, are soo much happier in life! Why do you think this is the case? The answer is Simple: Less let-downs! Less broken hearts! Less expectations! Sure there will always be those with lots of fanfare and fame, but it has little to do with Facebook, fame and fanfare (and fortune) is apart of life as we know it, some people truly have what to offer the masses, for better or for worse, Facebook is not it's birthplace or it's home, nor does Facebook own it, rather it is a platform for some to present their wares to a larger marketplace. In fact, for certain products and businesses many benefit from this kind of platform and marketplace, rightfully so in many instances - not necessarily so in others. After all it's a shuk - a market place of 100's of millions of potential customers, so to speak, but can one expect from this platform what is truly healthy for the 'average' human being and 'child'?

I'll let you be the judge.

Make a good choice. Be the best that you can be, happily and realistically and practically - here in the real world.

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